Monday, August 6, 2018

Back to School Food Safety Tips

Back to school, back to the books, back in the saddle, or back in the car for parents. The new school year means it’s back to packing lunches and after-school snacks for students, scouts, athletes, dancers, and all the other children who carry these items to and from home. One ‘back’ you do not want to reacquaint children with, however, is bacteria.
Bacteria that cause foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning, grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In just two hours, these microorganisms can multiply to dangerous levels, which can cause foodborne illness. To make sure lunches and snacks are safe for those you pack for, follow the four steps to food safety:
1.    Clean
2.    Separate
3.    Cook
4.    Chill.
Before you start preparing lunch:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm or hot water for at least 20 seconds before AND after handling food.
  • Avoid handling cellphones and other electronic devices, mail, keys, and bags during food prep. Keep these items off food preparation and eating surfaces.
  • Always use clean spoons, forks, plates, and cutting boards. Remember to use separate cutting boards – one for fruits and vegetables and the other for meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Remember the 2-Hour rule: you must keep hot foods HOT and cold foods COLD. Meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs (also known as perishables) only last two hours at room temperature of 90° F or below before they are unsafe to eat. If the room temperature exceeds 90° F, the perishables will only last one hour before they must march back into the refrigerator or freezer.

While preparing lunch:

Wash fruits and vegetables with running tap water. Pack only the amount of perishable food that can be eaten at lunchtime. That way, there won’t be a problem scrambling to store leftovers safely.
It’s fine to prepare food the night before, but pack lunch bags before leaving home. Freezing sandwiches helps them stay cold. It’s advised not to freeze sandwiches containing mayonnaise, lettuce, or tomatoes. Add these items later.

Packing Tips

If the lunch/snack contains perishable food items like luncheon meats, eggs, cheese, or yogurt, make sure to pack it with at least two cold sources such as frozen gel packs or frozen bottles of water. Frozen juice boxes can also be used as freezer packs. Freeze these items. By lunchtime, the liquids should be thawed and ready to drink. Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly so perishable food transported without an ice source won't stay safe long. 

DIY Freezer Packs

Pictured above is an easy backup to your ice packs, especially if packing a lot of lunchboxes or filling a big cooler. The idea is simple: Wet individual sponges, squeeze out excess water, drop them in a sealed baggie, and freeze. These packs are less bulky than traditional ones, making them perfect for even the littlest of lunch boxes. 
  •  Pack lunches containing perishable food in an insulated lunchbox or soft-sided lunch bag. Perishable food can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag. 
  •  If packing a hot lunch, like soup, chili or stew, use an insulated container to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and put in the piping hot food. Tell children to keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot at 140° F or above. 
  • If packing a child’s lunch the night before, parents should leave it in the refrigerator overnight. The meal will stay cold longer because everything will be refrigerator temperature when it is placed in the lunchbox.
  • If you’re responsible for packing snacks for the team, troop, or group, keep perishable foods in a cooler with ice or cold packs until snack time. Pack snacks in individual bags or containers, rather than having children share food from one serving dish.
Storage Tips
 If possible, a child’s lunch should be stored in a refrigerator or cooler with ice upon arrival. Leave the lid of the lunchbox or bag open in the fridge so that cold air can better circulate and keep the food cold.
Eating and Disposal Tips
  • Pack disposable wipes for washing hands before and after eating.
  • After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging as it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.
Follow these tips and you’ll keep bacteria out of your lunchbox! Make sure to share with your loved ones and friends!  


Turkey + Cheddar Roll-up
Fresh Berries
Trail Mix 
Pita Bread
Grape Tomatoes
Sliced Oranges
Cheese Quesadilla
Tortilla Chips
Deli Meat + Cheese Kabobs
Red Pepper Slices
Fruit Leather or Snacks
Hard Boiled Eggs
Baby Carrots + Ranch
Peaches or Applesauce
Pasta Salad
Granola Bar
Almond Butter + Jelly (or PB +J)
String Cheese
Fruit Cup
Cheddar Cheese Cubes
Bagel + Cream Cheese
Yogurt Tube
Baby Carrots
Fruit Snacks
Veggie Wraps with Hummus
Edamame or Snap Peas
Granola Bar

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